how to make money with a drone

How to Make Money With a Drone: Starting a Drone Business

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Many people enjoy operating drones for fun. They’re not just toys, however. Drones are used for monitoring the weather, aerial imaging, and telecommunications. Drones are used for many different business opportunities.

Turning your passion into a side hustle gives you a fun way to make extra money. Let’s talk about how to make money with a drone, what you need to start a drone business, and what you should know.

How much can you make with a drone business

The type of business you start with your drone will largely determine how much money you can make. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot makes $81,201 on average. That amount will also vary by your experience and location.

Another example is using your drone for aerial photography. You could earn as much as $350 per session. The type of equipment and your training will also affect pricing.

Cost to start a drone business

The costs of starting a done business will depend on how you’ll be using it. For example, if it is going to be used for photography you will need camera equipment, editing software, etc. How much you spend for a drone used for stock photography might be different from what you need for drone delivery.

Below is a list of things you may need and a general price range:

  • Computer – $500 to $2,000 for a laptop or computer used for editing video and images
  • Software – $99 to $399 for photo editing software or drone mapping software
  • Drone insurance – $500 to $750 a year
  • New drone – $500 to $20,000
  • Business license – from a few dollars to several hundred dollars
  • Marketing – $0 (referrals and networking) to $200 per week
  • Remote pilot certificate – $170 (required for drones that weigh less than 55 pounds)
  • Other equipment – Thermal cameras, 3D imaging software, and additional equipment might be necessary based on the industry

Get a FAA Part 107 License

If you plan to use your drone for business purposes in the United States, you’ll need your Part 107 certificate. This drone license shows that you have a working knowledge of the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures followed to safely fly a drone.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) administers this test. You’ll receive all the study materials that you’ll need. Additional study guides and training classes are also available.

The cost of the test is $150. Your Part 107 license is valid for 2 years. To find out more about the process of receiving your Remote Pilot Certification, check out the FAA’s website.

Ways to make money with a drone business

There are plenty of different ideas on how to make money with a drone. Your drone business could go into a passion that you have, utilize your existing skills, or be a new venture. Here are a few money-making drone ideas to consider below.

Sell your drone footage on stock video sites

Stock photography is a huge business. Using your drone, you can take aerial footage that isn’t possible otherwise. If you’re a traveler who loves documenting sights, selling stock photography with your drone makes a lot of sense.

Just remember that you’ll need to collect a ton of aerial footage. Websites like iStock, Adobe Stock, and Getty Stock Images are among the places you could sell your photos.

Make Youtube videos

Youtube is used by many content creators to make an income. Some ways you can make money on YouTube using your drone include:

  • Product Reviews
  • Range Tests
  • Tutorials
  • Vlogs
  • Informational Videos

The money making opportunities are virtually limitless on Youtube. You must reach certain thresholds of hours, views, subscribers to start making money. Be sure to be willing to put in the effort to build your platform.

Do inspections with your drone

Drones are increasingly used for reviewing electrical lines, pumping stations, remote substations, and other activities. An unmanned drone with a strong camera and movie transmitters can do these jobs better than other types of aircraft.

Using flying drones for this type of work requires higher performing and secure machinery. Additionally, they need extra equipment. But the payback period for doing this type of work is short once you’ve figured out how to get customers.

Work with real estate agents to drone homes and land

Drone pilots can also make money working with real estate agents to help them sell homes and other types of property. Real estate photography that uses aerial shots may influence the selling price.

Real estate brokers will often hire UAV video companies to make real estate movies as well.

Aerial mapping and surveying

Some parts of terrestrial places are hard or impossible to reach for shooting photos. Drones and other small UAVs can get into many of these challenging places. Topography, electronic mapping, archaeology, feature recognition, and other VIS programs are some of the applications of aerial surveys.

Construction and inspections

A cost-effective way that construction and inspection companies can inspect an asset to determine what repairs are needed is with drones. For example, construction sites might need help using a drone to conduct roof inspections.

You might even consider becoming a home inspector yourself with your remote pilot certificate.

Advertising and marketing

If you’re a budding filmmaker, consider making money by flying drones for advertisements. Hotels are possible customers who may use aerial video footage to show off a certain hotel.

Another idea is to partner with travel advertising agencies. They may use photos and videos to help create memorable advertisements.

Event and wedding coverage

Weddings and other large events are prime markets to build a profitable drone service. There’s a lot of competition in this space so you’ll need great movie and photo-taking skills to be successful.

You’ll need a small, innovative drone that has a high-resolution camera to take great aerial footage.

Drone pilot job websites

Job websites like LinkedIn or CareerBuilder are good starting places to find a commercial drone pilot job. But you’ll have a lot better luck using specialized job boards. Sold By Air and Sky OP are some job boards that drone pilots should look at for open opportunities.

Start a drone rental, repair or reseller business

People could have one-off reasons to use a drone that doesn’t justify buying one out-right. Make some easy money renting out your drones to others. Or if you’re handy with fixing drones up, you could repair them for others.

Another option is to start a drone reseller business. You’ll need to be able to find drone sellers and buyers to make it a viable business opportunity.

Search and rescue

Piloting a drone won’t be part of an official investigation. It occurs after the completed investigation. For example, certain companies will offer a person or animal search using a network of volunteer pilots.

It’s important to note that many of these positions are unpaid. However, whoever organizes these volunteers needs group training instructors to train them.

Become a drone racer

Yes, you can become a professional drone racer. MultiGP is the largest professional drone racing league in the world. They have an extensive network of gatherings and causal events with over 500 active chapters worldwide.

Start a blog

Use your drone footage to start a travel blog. Once you’ve grown your following, look into affiliate marketing to generate income from your website. Starting a blog using a drone is something even kids can do to make extra money.

Offer a Course

With the drone industry growing rapidly, more people are interested in getting a drone. Use your drone operating skills to teach others how to pilot them. You could offer private lessons or record lessons and launch an online course.

If you choose to create an online course, there are websites like Udemy that you can use to sell your course. If you have a blog or strong social media following, you could even use your own platform to get the word out.

Rules to know about drones

Make sure you know the rules before flying your drone to make money. There are several laws that you must abide by. For example, busy airports require authorization to fly nearby. Flying drones in national parks is illegal.

Check state laws and local ordinances for specific rules in your area.

Track costs for taxes

Just with any side hustle or small business, you must track your costs. Keep your receipts from equipment and gear that’s purchased for your jobs.

Your mileage for each gig should also be tracked. Putting a process in place for tracking your mileage will save you from a ton of headaches during tax season.

Tips to find drone jobs

So you’ve received your drone license and have an idea of how to make money with a drone. You’re ready to make some money but that’s often easier said than done. Here are some tips on how to find drone jobs:

  • Use drone pilot marketplaces like Sold By Air
  • Network regularly
  • Build a website that includes your portfolio
  • Talk to your friend circle and ask around for job leads
  • Apply for multiple job listings that match your criteria
  • Take on freelance jobs as they come
  • Buy a high-quality drone
  • Consider offering free or reduced pricing to build a clientele

Things to consider when buying a drone to make money

Before buying a drone to make money you must decide on what type of drone business you want to start. The quality and features of the drone that you must have are largely determined by this.

There are several different drones out in the drone marketplace. It may feel overwhelming to choose among the choices out there. Here are the five different categories that drones fall under:

  • Nano – weight less than or equal to 250 gm
  • Microdrones – weigh greater than 250 grams and less than or equal to 2 kg
  • Small drones – weigh greater than 2 kg and less than or equal to 25 kg
  • Medium drones- weigh greater than 25 kg and less than or equal to 150 kg
  • Large drones – weigh greater than 150 kg

It can be risky to fly a drone, particularly for beginners. Drone insurance might be a good idea to research before buying a drone as well.


There are several paths to make money from drones from a drone photography business or becoming a drone operator for construction companies. You’ll need to get the right drone, certification, and put in the work to start your drone business. Making money using a drone might not even feel like work at all once you’ve got it going. 

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